The House passed a police reform bill named for George Floyd that would ban choke holds and ‘qualified immunity’ for officers

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators march from the U.S. Capitol Building during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Washington, U.S., June 6, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo
Protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Washington DC. Reuters
  • The House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act late Wednesday.
  • The bill would be the most ambitious police reform passed in the US in decades.
  • The legislation now heads to the Senate, where it needs at least 10 GOP votes to become law.
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The US House of Representatives passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act late Wednesday, in a party-line vote on the most ambitious policing reform bill in decades.

The bill is named for George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who was killed in May of last year when a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, prompting a summer of racial justice protests nationwide.

The legislation would ban the use of neck restraints at the federal level, get rid of “qualified immunity” for police officers, and prohibit no-knock warrants in federal drug cases.

Under current law, qualified immunity prevents public officials from being held personally liable for wrongdoing that occurs while on the job, making it difficult to sue police officers. Democrats tried to get rid of it last year, saying doing so would make it easier for police officers to be held accountable for misconduct.

The latest reform bill was passed after President Joe Biden indicated support for it on Twitter and in a statement on Monday. 

“To make our communities safer, we must begin by rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the people they are entrusted to serve and protect. We cannot rebuild that trust if we do not hold police officers accountable for abuses of power and tackle systemic misconduct – and systemic racism – in police departments,” the statement said.

House Democrats tried to pass a version of the bill last year but were blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate. The bill now heads to the Senate, where Democrats need at least 10 Republican votes in order for it to become law.

Some Republicans have said the bill would make it harder for police to do their jobs. On the House floor Wednesday, GOP Rep. Carlos Gimenez of Florida said the bill would “weaken and possibly destroy our community’s police forces,” NPR reported.

But Rep. Karen Bass, who introduced the latest legislation, said she believes lawmakers will work together to pass the bill in the Senate, NBC reported. “Many of our Republican colleagues said they thought they could get to yes on this, but they had some difficulties,” Bass said of last year’s bill.

The bill also outlaws racial profiling, establishes a national registry of police misconduct, and requires state and local agencies to report use of force data by categories that includes race, sex, and religion.